Sunday, October 16, 2005

Where do you get time to read fiction?

So did a friend of mine remark at noticing a novel on the coffee table during a recent visit to our home. To which I said that one should always read, and choose books from diverse subjects so as to fuel our imagination as well as learn something new. Of course, we do read a lot of non-fiction in order to satisfy our daily life in general, and work life in particular. Reading fiction takes your imagination for a ride. You can visit far off places, meet people from different walks of life as well as different societies, feel the emotions, be it pain or joy, of the characters in the books.

This got me thinking about why we read and especially why we should read a good mix of fiction as well as non-fiction. Of course, almost everyone reads news, opinions and views on the current events in magazines and newspapers. We read technical literature pertaining to our work. We should also cultivate a habit of regularly reading fiction in order to get into the minds of others. Reading fiction sparks one's imagination, It tickles the right side of the brain. Of course, any exercise to our gray matter is a good thing in itself. Fiction provides an escape from our day-to-day life and its problems. One of the reasons Bollywood movies always follow the formula of injecting a lot of pain and suffering into the movies is to provide a means for the suffering masses to see someone else suffering more than them. Thus the audience will go back home glad that they are a lot better off than the characters in the movie. Thank god, the characters on the silver screen and their problems are fictional. Well, that is my theory, anyway.

Fiction lets you discover things that you might not have thought of, it lets you visit places that you did not even dream of visiting, it lets you get into the minds of the President of a corporation or an army general or a serial killer or .. You get the point. Where would you get a glimpse of the mind of a corporate mogul? Fiction is entertaining. It evokes all kinds of emotions in you. It lets your imagination run wild. I hated seeing movies that are based on famous novels. I used to imagine the characters to look a certain way, to speak in a certain manner, etc. and most of the times, the movies did not stand up to my imagination. That's why I don't see such movies anymore. I want to cherish the pictures I have painted of my favorite characters and I am not going to let a Hollywood director steal it from me.

We used to read fairy tales and imagine the characters and the places the tales were set in. Everyone had their own imaginary wonderland. It gave us an opportunity to exercise our brain and picturize the things that were described to us using words. Today, with the advent of video technology and animation, kids sit and watch their favorite fairy tales even before they get a chance to read (or have someone read to them) them. Of course, the directors do a fantastic job of representing the tales, but we are still taking away the opportunity for a child to imagine things on her own. TV numbs your mind because it thinks for you. You just sit and watch for things to unfold (most of the time).

Most important of all is that reading lets you escape. You escape from everything around you. You are in a special world all by yourself, with your characters. Of course, this is assuming that you read by yourself. This gives you time for yourself. Fiction reading can be relaxing as well as rejuvenating. I have made a plan to read at least one fiction book and a book on a subject that is unknown to me, every month. This will help me relax (fiction) and expand my horizon (new subject). Let's see how well I can implement this plan. Of course, there will always be things to be taken care of, but it is up to us to make time for the finer things in life.